Communication Design School of Design

Ellen Nacey (She/Her)

As an illustrator I’ve always felt drawn to colour, shape and composition and how all these elements integrate and compliment one another. With interests in children’s illustration, book cover design and surface pattern design, I’ve found that these forms of communication lend themselves well to my illustrative style. The meaningful concepts of my work are integral; mental health and wellbeing being a key theme within my practice. Discussing sensitive but important social ideas with a nurturing and thoughtful touch has been a big focus this year as well as exploring the relationship between colours, shapes and forms. I hope to continue this in the future, helping others and making a difference.

‘When It’s Time’ Children’s Picture Book
Surface Pattern Design
Colour Theory
Penguin Cover Design Award 2022

‘When It’s Time’ Children’s Picture Book

‘When It’s Time’ is a children’s picture book which encourages children to understand, process and support their experience of grief. After experiencing grief within my teenage and young adult years and finding it really challenging, I felt motivated to create an art therapy book for children which seeks to understand the different emotions and thoughts that come with the loss of a loved one as well as offering advice. My goal is to support these children through this experience and normalise anything they may feel in hopes of better understanding and processing.

Research of mid century design and children’s picture books from the 70s massively informed my design due to their graphic and playful quality. Inspired by the mindfulness of nature, paper illustrations made from a combination of solid coloured and painted paper cover the pages alongside soothing text. The text was derived from various pieces of literature focusing on nature, grief and how they are connected as well as other research and my own experiences.

The book was hand printed by myself, using the risograph with blue, red and yellow inks. They were then hand-bound in the caseroom using brass staples. Using only three colours prompted an exciting experience as I overlapped these colours at certain points to create a more complex and deep colour palette. I see this book as therapeutic reading experience and an emotional tool, with hope that it is referred back to ‘When It’s Time’.

I will be selling these books at degree show or please contact me for more information.

Surface Pattern Design

As an extension of my children’s picture book project, I wanted to create some repeat patterns that could eventually be used for textiles/printed products. Surface pattern design has always interested me and I felt this would be a good point to explore it further. These patterns have been made from the illustrations within the book. The patterns aim to soothe the child and comfort them at all times, alongside the book.

Colour Theory

Colour has always fascinated me – how it communicates, changes a narrative or mood, how colour palettes are formed and developed and so much more. Earlier this year we had a series of colour workshops which taught us how to mix watercolours efficiently and consistently, as well as experimenting with complimentary colours and the relationship between one another. I absolutely loved these workshops and they opened a whole new way of thinking and creating for myself as a designer and illustrator.

From here I started to paint in my spare time as I found it very meditative but it also became a fun challenge – only using two colours to create a whole palette of tones and shades.

We were also encouraged to use a grid system which is something I kept using as it gave my work structure and a professional quality. Surface pattern design has always interested me and I found that the designs I was producing could translate well as repeat patterns. After learning how make repeat patterns on Photoshop, this opened up a whole new way of visualising and designing seamless patterns.

Penguin Cover Design Award 2022

The Penguin Cover Design Award is a competition that runs every year for students and graduates. The challenge is to re-design the cover of a specific chosen book from three categories: non-fiction, fiction or children’s book.

The Penguin Design Award challenged me to redesign Dara McAnulty’s ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ in the non-fiction category. The book details the life of a teenage conservationist and naturalist living in Northern Ireland. Dara’s words come alive off the page, drawing from this evocative imagery in my design – they felt natural to visualise. I adored how Dara wrote about shape, colour and form within nature.

As an illustrator, I felt that we had a very similar way of viewing the world – poetic, abstract and open-minded.

The cover comprises watercolour illustrations of natural elements, colour swatches and notes alongside a tree trunk ‘spine’. It’s his observations that capture the magic of the outside world that make this cover what it is.

I’m absolutely thrilled to say that this design was shortlisted for this award and have re-submitted this design ready for the last stage of the competition.